Created By: PapercutChainsaw on September 16, 2011 Last Edited By: MrInitialMan on October 8, 2012
Troped

Mistaken For Dog

Exotic creature mistaken for common houshold pet

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Trope
Seriously needs a better title.

Alice has just brought home a new puppy! It's adorable at first, but Alice soon starts to notice it behaving strangely. She takes the animal to a vet, or does some research of her own, only to find that her new pet is not a dog at all.

The animal's true identity could be anything from an alien lifeform to a Mexican sewer rat. The most common variant involves the owner mistaking it for a dog, but other pet variants are possible.

See also I Am Not Weasel, All Animals Are Dogs. If another animal is deliberately masquerading as a dog, or has been disguised as one by a human, it may be Ass in a Lion Skin. When the creature is a sentient lifeform trying to pass as a dog, it's The Dog Is an Alien.

Examples

Advertising
  • Played for Laughs in a commercial for Sears Optical: A lady badly in need of glasses lets a racoon into her house, thinking it's her pet cat.

Film

Literature
  • Played completely and horrifyingly straight in The Thing, where the characters bring a malamute home to their base camp and it turns out to be an alien bent on assimilating all life on Earth.
  • In Piers Anthony's Race Against Time, one clue that tips off to the protagonist that he's living in a human zoo is that his new "puppy" climbs trees, and his "kitten" has a prehensile tail. Whether they're aliens that only look like house pets, or actual pets modified via genetic engineering, he never does find out.
  • In Howard Waldrop's short story The Ugly Chickens, a family has been raising what they think are just very ugly chickens for several hundred years. It turns out that they're actually dodo birds.

Live-Action TV
  • ALF would sometimes be mistaken for a dog, even getting thrown into the pound in one episode.
In Pixelface, at least two sets of visitors to the console (Uthelwynne in two Aethelwynnes" and Alexia's parents in "Alexia's Dinner") have assumed Rex is a dog, despite him talking to them.

Other
  • The urban myth of "The Mexican Pet" involves a woman taking her "dog" to the vet, only to be told that it's a diseased Mexican sewer rat.
  • There's the old joke that ends, "What the hell kind of dog is that?" (After said "dog" bites off the head of a German shepherd.)
    "Well, afore I bobbed his tail and painted him yellow, he was an alligator."

Video Games
  • Happens in a StarCraft cutscene: "Looks like you mashed some poor feller's dog, sarge." "It's a zergling, Lester, smaller type of zerg. They shouldn't be out this far unless... oh shit."
  • Tales of Symphonia has Noishe, who Lloyd thinks is just an oversized dog. He's actually Protozoan, a very ancient species.

Western Animation
  • The Tick mistakes a capybara for a dog and makes a pet of it.
  • Inverted with Ren of Ren and Stimpy; most people think he's some sort of rat, though he's really a chihuahua.
  • In The Looney Tunes Show, Bugs mistakes the Tasmanian Devil for a dog.
  • In the first episode of The Mighty B!, the dog Portia enters in the dog show turns out to be a rat.
  • Naturally, this sort of thing happens to Mr. Magoo all the time. One cartoon has him releasing a panther from a circus when he mistakes it for his dog being taken away by the dog catcher. In the feature film 1001 Arabian Nights, Magoo's "dog" Bowser is actually a cat, and a subplot has a ball of enchanted yarn used to make a Flying Carpet takes a liking to Magoo after he mistakes it for a cat and starts to pet it.
  • Kim Possible: Kim and Ron go undercover at a dog show, entering Rufus (a naked mole rat) as a contestant. Rufus wins!
  • The Goode Family adopt what looks like a diseased dog. When they take it to the vet, they discover that it's actually a rare Malasian marsupial, whose grotesque appearance is perfectly natural.
  • On The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy enters a werewolf in a dog show.
  • Muppet Babies once had baby Animal mistake a FULLY GROWN DINOSAUR for a puppy.

Real Life
  • Truth in television, with sand cats often being mistaken for domestic cats.

Community Feedback Replies: 54
  • September 16, 2011
    JonnyB
    The Tick mistakes a capybara for a dog and makes a pet of it.

    Inverted with Ren of Ren And Stimpy; most people think he's some sort of rat, though he's really a chihuahua.

    Played For Laughs in a commercial for Sears Optical: A lady badly in need of glasses lets a racoon into her house, thinking it's her pet cat.
  • September 16, 2011
    TonyG
    • In The Looney Tunes Show, Bugs mistakes the Tasmanian Devil for a dog.
    • In the first episode of The Mighty B, the dog Portia enters in the dog show turns out to be a rat.
    • Naturally, this sort of thing happens to Mr Magoo all the time. One cartoon has him releasing a panther from a circus when he mistakes it for his dog being taken away by the dog catcher. In the feature film 1001 Arabian Nights, Magoo's "dog" Bowser is actually a cat, and a subplot has a ball of enchanted yarn used to make a Flying Carpet takes a liking to Magoo after he mistakes it for a cat and starts to pet it.
  • September 16, 2011
    Damr1990
    • Invoked by Stitch, when he was trying to scape he made himself pass for a dog(and hidding some of his appendages, while it worked, everybody did noticed he was still loking weird
  • September 16, 2011
    TonyG
    To George Of The Jungle, Shep the elephant is his "big, gray, peanut-loving poochie." And Shep seems to believe it too.
  • September 16, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Truth in television, what with sand cats often being mistaken for domestic cats.
  • September 16, 2011
    Maklodes
    Happens in a Star Craft cutscene: "Looks like you mashed some poor feller's dog, sarge." "It's a zergling, Lester, smaller type of zerg. They shouldn't be out this far unless... oh shit."
  • September 16, 2011
    FastEddie
    Fix the title. Sounds like dialog.
  • September 16, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    ^Okay, taking suggestions. Not A Dog? Pet Species Confusion?
  • September 17, 2011
    MrInitialMan
  • September 17, 2011
    guyy
  • September 18, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Why didn't you use my example @ Papercut Chainsaw
  • September 18, 2011
    CrimsonZephyr
    Played completely and horrifyingly straight in The Thing, where the characters bring a malamute home to their base camp and it turns out to be an alien bent on assimilating all life on Earth.
  • September 18, 2011
    JoeG
    • Kim Possible: Kim and Ron go undercover at a dog show, entering Rufus (a naked mole rat) as a contestant. Rufus wins!
  • September 18, 2011
    Darthcaliber
    ALF would sometimes be mistaken for a dog even getting thrown into the pound in one episode.
  • September 18, 2011
    JonnyB
    In The Year Without A Santa Claus, the elves put socks on Vixen's antlers to pass her off as a dog. And people buy it. So much so that she ends up in the dog pound.
  • September 18, 2011
    TonyG
    The Goode Family adopt what looks like a diseaded dog. When they take it to the vet, they discover that it's actually a rare Malasian marsupial, whose grotesque appearance is perfectly natural.
  • September 18, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    @Hidden Faced Matt- Calm down. I was going to look up what a sand cat was and provide a link to The Other Wiki- I just hadn't got around to it. I can definitely see why people would want to take one home.
  • September 19, 2011
    stupac85
    Frank from the Men In Black movies is a sentient alien living on Earth disguised as a dog.
  • September 19, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    Disregard this post; I'm an idiot.
  • September 21, 2011
    BooleanEarth
  • September 21, 2011
    SharleeD
    • In Piers Anthony's Race Against Time, one clue that tips off to the protagonist that he's living in a human zoo is that his new "puppy" climbs trees, and his "kitten" has a prehensile tail. Whether they're aliens that only look like house pets, or actual pets modified via genetic engineering, he never does find out.
    • On The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy, Mandy enters a werewolf in a dog show.
    • Not sure about this one, but in An American Werewolf In London, David and Jack call out "Nice doggie, good boy..." to whatever it is that's howling and snarling in the darkness. Probably more a case of their own wishful thinking than actual misidentification, so it may not count.
    • In Sewer, Gas & Electric, a robot security-guard mistakes a sewer gator for a LARGE RAT/STRAY PET. Justified in that the robot's programming didn't allow for its identification of any other animal.
  • September 21, 2011
    lars_h
    In Lee Falk's The Phantom (comic strip), the main protagonist has a wolf named Devil as his trusty side-kick. An often repeated joke is that someone says to him (when he appears as Mr. Walker): "Sorry Sir, you can't bring a dog in here" (e.g. on this airplane). The response is always "He's not a dog. He's a wolf." Then Devil is allowed to come along. A wolf is probably not so exotic these days (and arguably the same species as a dog anyway), but it was exotic when the joke was new.
  • September 21, 2011
    Darthcaliber
    ^^It was Billy who entered the werewolf (who was actually Irwin) Mandy knew immediately it was a werewolf and said so but Billy being... well Billy -refused to listen.

    Not sure Frank the pug counts as he is deliberately pretending to be a dog by wearing a highly sophisticated dog suit. Might be worth noting though that the Animated Series showed what he looks like under his suit -green with antennas but otherwise exactly like a dog.

    Muppet Babies once had baby Animal mistake a FULLY GROWN DINOSAUR for a puppy.
  • September 22, 2011
    TooBah
    Happens in Adventures In Babysitting, when Brenda has lost her glasses and is stuck in the bus station. She sees what she thinks is a kitten, picks it up... and it turns out to be a jumbo-sized sewer rat. Watch it here, at about 8:05.
  • September 22, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    Tales Of Symphonia has Noishe, who Lloyd thinks is just an oversized Dog. He's actually Protozoan(sp), a very ancient species.
  • September 22, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    In the original Ghostbusters, this is a Running Gag with Gozer's two minion creatures. Rick Moranis' character thinks they're dogs, one of his party-goers called one a bear, a policeman explained to Venkman that it was a cougar, and near the end Venkman concedes that his date has become a "dog."
  • September 23, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    Is there a trope for aliens disguised as dogs, by any chance? There seems like there might be enough for a separate trope.
  • September 25, 2011
    SKJAM
    And then there's the old joke that ends, "What the hell kind of dog is that?" "Well, afore I bobbed his tail and painted him yellow, he was an alligator."
  • September 26, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    Thats No Dog was a way better title. Mistaken For Dog sucks.
  • September 26, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    ^Hey, I gotta obey Fast Eddie, whether I like it or not. But I kind of agree with you... (sigh) Taking alternative name suggestions... again...

    (This is a chronic problem I have)
  • September 27, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    It's okay, man. I'm really bad at names, too, and most of the kinds I like are now frowned upon.

    Would Not A Dog be okay? If so, is that better or worse? Or maybe something that just has dog in the title but then custom-titled to make it "dog" with the quotes? Or are both of those stupid?
  • September 28, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    ^ I guess something like that will have to do... Not Really A Dog would probably work.
  • December 15, 2011
    Lumpenprole
    Eugene the Jeep (from the Popeye mythos) is sometimes taken for a "funny-looking dog", although canonically Jeeps are supposed to be an amalgam of a fourth-dimensional life form and an "African Hooey Hound".

  • December 15, 2011
    johnnye
    • Inverted on Friends when Joey is insistent that Rachel's exotic, hairless Sphinx Cat is "not a cat". Gunther wonders if it's some sort of snake.
  • December 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Not sure if this counts.
    • Key West: Gumbo has a Cool Pet in Tickle [sic] Pink, a female alligator with a pink ribbon tied around its neck. He doesn't think it's a dog; but he treats it much like one would treat a pet dog.
  • December 18, 2011
    morenohijazo
  • December 18, 2011
    ArtyMorty
    • South Park Episode Good Times with Weapons: The boys disguise Butters after "an accident" as a dog so that he get a treatment at the vet.
    • The Direct-to-video special of My Pet Monster the boy transformed into a monster gets mistaken for a dog on a dog show.
  • December 18, 2011
    Synchronicity
  • July 31, 2012
    triassicranger
    ^ That's been mentioned above.

    Nev the bear in Bear Behaving Badly is mistaken for a dog by Aunt Barbara. There's one episode where it's used to the characters' advantage to scare off a robot postwoman.
  • July 31, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Old joke, here's a version by Flip Wilson. Short version: a woman on a bus gets insulted by a man who says her baby is ugly. They get in an argument, someone else tries to calm everyone down. The calmer-downer person offers to get a banana for the woman's "monkey."
  • August 3, 2012
    HiddenFacedMatt
    I think a way to improve the name would be to make it more broad; the current one is likely to give the wrong impression as to what the trope is.

    How about something like Pet Species Confusion?
  • August 3, 2012
    chicagomel
    Re aliens as dogs, yeah, there's The Dog Is An Alien
  • August 3, 2012
    Doxiedame
    There's one cat species that may be an example, notable aversion, zigzag or something. The wild cat is the species from which domestic breeds descended and is a sub-species of. Adding to the very understandable confusion is the vanishing gap in the genetic difference between the two thanks to interbreeding.

    Right now, the only way someone who's not a biologist can tell the difference is how far away from humans the cat lives and how likely they are to approach humans.

    There are still very real biological difference, but not enough that the average person will be able to tell.
  • August 3, 2012
    Generality
    In the Belgariad related works, one of the main characters is a wolf (usually). Occasionally she accompanies the rest of the cast, and most others take her for a dog because they can't believe a wolf could be tamed.
  • August 4, 2012
    EpicEbi
    In Rave Master, we have Plue, which is (apparently) classified as a dog (even though it's actually a weird sort of snowman). But Elle keeps mistaking it for an insect.

    I suggest the name Our Animals Are Different. What do you think?
  • August 4, 2012
    Doxiedame
    ^ Seems to indicate a different trope. The trope's about mistaken identity, kind of, of the species of animal.

    The current name fits very well. It's descriptive and matches the article.
  • August 4, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Not related to Call A Smeerp A Rabbit.
  • August 9, 2012
    beamerpook
    Belgariad series - Poledra in her wolf form is mistaken for hunting hound. Noone , including her perceived "master", realizes she is a sorceress. Black Jewels Trilogy - Newcomers to the Hall believe Lavarian is a house-trained puppy, not realizing he is Kindred.
  • August 9, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Earths Children series some humans think that the Clan people are animals somehow related to cave bears - this is due to a misunderstanding of them being "the Clan of the Cave Bear." They worship the cave bear, but aren't related to it.
  • August 9, 2012
    abk0100
    Probably counts:

    • In Dinosuar King, the main character tells his mom that his baby triceratops Mon is a dog, and she believes it without a second thought.
  • August 10, 2012
    Treeckosawesomeness
    Oddly enough, this happens in Spectrobes, despite the fact that almost none of the mon mons look anything like dogs.
  • August 10, 2012
    ccoa
    • Many NPCs in Okami mistake Amaterasu, a large white wolf, for a dog. Of course, they also have no issues with a dog out shopping, so there may be a Weirdness Censor in place.
  • October 6, 2012
    MrInitialMan
    Any ideas for a better name? Or should I just launch it?
  • October 7, 2012
    foxley
    In Pixelface, at least two sets of visitors to the console (Uthelwynne in two Aethelwynnes" and Alexia's parents in "Alexia's Dinner") have assumed Rex is a dog, despite him talking to them.
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